Padma Shree Awarded to Ex – Pakistani Soldier – Lt. Col Sajjad
Lt. Colonel Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahir who played an important role in the 1971 Bangladesh’s war of Liberation has thanked the Indian government for honouring him Padma Shree award.
Lt Col Zahir’s is a name that Pakistan continues to hate even today. According to the ex-military man, there’s a death sentence pending in his name in Pakistan for the past 50 years. In Bangladesh, however, Lt Col Zahir has been honoured with gallantry medals such as the Bir Pratik and the country’s highest civilian honour, the Swadhinata Padak. Now India, too, has recognized his contributions to the military history of the subcontinent and conferred on him the Padma Shri.
The Padma Awards are the highest civilian honours of India announced annually ahead of Republic Day. However, the award-giving ceremony was affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year.
The Padma Awards are given in three categories: Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service), Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher-order) and Padma Shree (distinguished service). The award seeks to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.
As a 20 year old officer posted in Sialkot, Lt. Col Zahir crossed over into India at the height of the Pakistani army’s atrocities and human rights violations in Bangladesh. In India, he was initially suspected of being an Indian spy due to which he was grilled by the border forces and later by the senior officers of the Indian Army.
He however presented a bunch of Pakistani arm documents to back up his case, following which he was sent to a safe house in Delhi. It was from here that the Indian Intelligence coordinated with him. He was later sent to Bangladesh where he trained the Mukti Bahini in guerrilla warfare to take on the Pakistani forces.
His actions obviously did not go down well with Pakistan where he is hated. In fact there is a death sentence pending against him in Pakistan for the past 50 years. However in Bangladesh he has been honoured with gallantry medals such as the Bir Protik and the country’s highest civilian honour, the Swadhinata Padak.
While India and Bangladesh celebrate 50 years of the 1971 liberation war, this award bestowed to Lt Colonel Zahir holds a special meaning who incidentally turns 71 this year, a number that is very close to the hearts of all Bangladeshis and also has a special meaning for India.
The valour of Lt Colonel Zahir can be understood from the fact that he proudly says there is a death sentence pending in his name for the last 50 years in Pakistan, almost showcasing it as a badge of honour.
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